An unprecedented 14 Sri Lankan Ambassadors and High Commissioners have either returned home or are due to return shortly at the end of their three-year assignments overseas."We have standing room only," complains one returnee, as he joins others in a scramble for office space in an overcrowded ministry.
The long list of returning envoys includes: Bernard Goonetilleke (US), Prasad Kariyawasam (UN), Kshenuka Senewiratne (UK), Amanul Farouque (Lebanon), S.B. Attugoda (Qatar), Chitranganie Wagiswara (France), Pamela J. Deen (the Netherlands), Aruni Wijewardene (Austria), Romesh Jayasinghe (India), Ranjit Uyangoda (Japan), and M. Samsudeen (Secretary-General of the Indian Ocean Rim Association). The three political appointees among the returnees are M.M. Zuhair (Iran), Meelad Keeran (Kenya) and M. Zuhaile (Kuwait).
The vacancies in most of these missions are to be filled after the SAARC summit early next month. But there is no dearth of career foreign service officers to take up these assignments.
At least five senior officers -- Sudantha Ganegamarachchi (outgoing deputy in London), A.L. Abdul Azeez (deputy in New York), C.H.A.M. Wijeratne (deputy in Rome), T. Raveenthiran and M.R. Gunaratne -- are due for promotion as Heads of Missions and have been bypassed so far.
The list of recent appointments include Nihal Jayasinghe, a former Supreme Court judge as High Commissioner to London; H.M.G.S. Palihakkara, a former Foreign Secretary as Permanent Representative at the UN; and a rare cross-posting for Jaliya Wickramasuriya, a political appointee and former Consul-General in Los Angeles as our new envoy in Washington DC.
Meanwhile, our missions in Brazil and Malaysia remain headless.